I also found the general quality of television production and programming to be exceptionally poor and scandalously amateurish. This assessment is not comprehensive and scientific or objective, by any measure, because it is primarily based on just one television station, the Multimedia-owned and operated Joy-TV. I was told by one of my in-laws and hostess that most college-educated Ghanaians watched Joy-TV because it was virtually the only television station that broadcast wholly in English, with most of the other television stations telecasting predominantly in the local languages, the dominant Akan-Twi language and its dialectal variations. This seemed to be a general truth because on the day that I took my maiden historical trip to Jubilee House, the seat of Ghana’s Presidency, on August 1, that is, all the television sets in the two guest/waiting rooms in which my family and I had to spend some time waiting to see President Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo were tuned in to Joy News.
The first disorienting irritation that one encountered watching the Joy News Channel had to do with the fact that the graphics that accompanied most of the footage and screen shots were woefully scanty. For the most part, if one did not know a newsmaker or a talking head that appeared on the screen, one was condemned to be watching Mister or Miss or Professor or Doctor or Missus Anonymous for minutes without any identifying clues. “Geez, my community college students and the City University of New York (CUNY) television station produce better-quality TV than Joy News,” I bitterly complained to one of my hosts, who, in perfect agreement with me, promptly responded, “Tell me about it, Prof; a lot of viewers have been complaining about this problem for ages. The producers and editors of Multi-TV appear to have decided that they couldn’t care less about what their viewers thought about the quality of their programming one way or another.” I replied that the apparently abject lack of professional response to audience complaints may very well have a lot to do with lack of any stiff competition in the Ghanaian media market, unlike the way that the media market is in New York or any of the other metropolitan markets throughout the United States.
In essence, if you are the only TV station broadcasting wholly in English, the nation’s official language of business and formal education, then, of course, you need not worry about losing any portion of your captive audience and advertising cedis or money. It well appears that unless Joy-TV is given stiff competition down the pike, as it were, by at least one other major television network, this complacency-brewed lethargy or lackadaisical attitude towards quality programming would continue till kingdom come.
“At any rate, whatever happened to GBC-TV?” “It is now called GTV,” my brother-in-law promptly corrected me. “Ok, whatever happened to GTV?” “Who watches GTV these days, anyway, Prof?” I was beginning to feel dizzy with uncontrollable irritation, once again, and had to click the remote to Channel 400. Solid shit! That was BBC World Service TV, the world’s Numero Uno! I was beginning to regain my composure, my sanity and my orientation once again. And then a couple of minutes later, I asked for CNN International. “That is Channel 402,” my hostess cooed. I began to feel like my normal self again. I was born and raised here, in Ghana, till I was fast approaching my mid-20s, and then I went to the United States. But that ought not to make me want to tolerate mediocrity. I am way past such bull-crap! I quickly flicked the channel back to Channel 400, because I couldn’t stand the humdrum and endless showing of the jaded Trump-Russia Affair. Let Trump copulate with his Russian crap and silly tweets like the spoilt-rotten suburban snooty white teenager that he is. “You are talking about the President of the United States, your country of citizenship.” That was my hostess, once again. President of the United States my foot. I mean, we are talking about a second-generation half-German and half-Scottish bastard neither of whose parents were born in the United States, who behaves as if America were synonymous with one of the Trump Casinos.
That Ghana leads the rest of Continental Africa on the Global Press-Freedom Index is cold comfort, when the quality and production of television programming leaves so much to be desired. The fact of the matter is that the quality of radio programming, for the most part, is no better. Oftentimes, the wrong register or language is being used, often your garden-variety of slapstick obscenity, when the news event at hand demands dignified linguistic solemnity, such as a news report that involves the heinous act of rape or murder. This is where the curricula of the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ) and all the other communication schools and colleges across the country come in. Something morally and culturally refreshing needs to be done about this canker. Maybe even a national conference on media programming needs to be convened in one of our regional capitals, preferably in Kumasi, the cultural hub of Ghana.
It also appears that our media operatives have an extremely hard time differentiating between their role as societal watchdogs, as opposed to political attack-dogs or pit-bulls or antagonists of any government or regime that happens to wield power. It is primarily for this reason why I am dead-set against any facile attempt to rush through the passage of the Right-To-Information (RTI) Bill. Our media operatives first need to stop being inordinately influenced by the “Soli” (or Solidarity) payolas and studiously learn to cultivate a professional sense of independent-mindedness; and stop being crudely and savagely and whorishly used to further the agenda of vindictive political scumbags and mischief-makers.
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